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TRAVEL WATCH: OCTOBER 11, 1999 VOL. 154 NO. 14

Explore Cambodia's Royal Roots at Angkor
With more than 1,000 archaeological sites scattered across 200 sq km of lush Cambodian jungle, Angkor is a beacon to global explorers

Today Phnom Penh is blooming into a popular tourist destination

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The concept of a holiday in Cambodia once provided rich ironic material for the punk band Dead Kennedys, but today Phnom Penh is blooming into a popular tourist destination. Now is the perfect time to enjoy the charms of this enigmatic city as it emerges from the shadows of Cambodia's dark past. The heart and soul of the capital is the riverside district, centered around Sisowath Quay. Among the many attractions that line the street are the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda. Running north to south, Sisowath is home to the city's finest restaurants and most interesting nightspots. Eateries range from French-inspired to traditional Cambodian fare.

An excellent starting point is the Foreign Correspondents Club (FCC), on the southern end of the strip. The terrace of the old colonial-style building is an ideal place to sip a gin and tonic, sit back and watch the Tonle Sap River run by. At dinnertime there are a number of appealing options to choose from. Close to the FCC, and housed in another colonial relic, is the Globe Restaurant, offering French and Indochinese cooking that ranges from Creole chicken brochettes to steamed Khmer river fish. La Paillote, adjacent to the Central Market, is another interesting choice. It serves a full range of French specialties and is celebrated as having the best crème brulée in town.

Post-repast, a number of establishments contribute to the city's emerging nightlife scene. At one extreme of the spectrum is the upscale Naga Floating Casino, which is anchored in front of the Hotel Sofitel Cambodiana. At the more down-to-earth end of things is the Heart of Darkness Bar, a few blocks south of the Central Market and not far from the riverside. The bar has an Apocalypse Now-feel that seems just right in this city of mysteries.

--Steven Feldstein

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